We describe the fabrication and characterization of a high-quality spiral phase plate as a device to generate optical vortices of low (3–5) specified charge at visible wavelengths. The manufacturing process is based on a molding technique and allows for the production of high-precision, smooth spiral phase plates as well as for their replication. An attractive feature of this process is that it permits the fabrication of nominally identical spiral phase plates made from different materials and thus yielding different vortex charges. When such a plate is inserted in the waist of a fundamental Gaussian beam, the resultant far-field intensity profile shows a rich vortex structure, in excellent agreement with diffraction calculations based on ideal spiral phase plates. Using a simple optical test, we show that the reproducibility of the manufacturing process is excellent.
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